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285 posts from October 2007

October 29, 2007

A gem from Larcenia

Miami Democratic Sen. Larcenia Bullard just said she initially didn't understand portability and that "I thought it was some place to go to the bathroom."

New Year's hangovers won't stop Iowa

Iowa Democrats decided late last night to hold their caucus on Jan. 3, 2008, the same day as the Republican caucuses and the earliest presidential vote in modern-day history.

"This date maintains the important common-sense principle of beginning the delegate selection process in the same calendar year as the election for which we are selecting delegates,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Scott Brennan in a written statement. “Holding the caucuses on the same day as the Republican Party of Iowa shows solidarity and unity in working to protect Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status, an important argument in the years to come."

Looking forward to the argument, as well as Florida putting in its own two cents. The Des Moines Register story is here.

Rubio: Senate plan may be okay -- with amendments?

Forcing more of us to burn the midnight oil, House Speaker Marco Rubio sent out this late night email message to House members, saying that the now scaled-back property tax proposal has them "encouraged" because it includes a "cap for non-homestead property.''

What he doesn't say is that cap is a shadow of its former self -- doubled from 5 percent to 10 percent, well within the margin of increase most of the state has seen in the last five years, and therefore will have little impact. More here on the plan. Rubio added that he doesn't know "what legislation will ultimately pass in the Senate once the amendatory process is complete." He's got to be hoping the cap comes down -- and other elements of the plan morph closer to the House's version.

It's clear Rubio, plans to be patient -- as patient as someone can be with a midnight deadline and a take-it-or-leave it offer from his negotiating partner. "Our plan is still to go in at 11 a.m. tomorrow,'' Rubio told members. "Once we have reconvened, we will plan to go into informal recess if we have not  yet received the Senate messages.''

The House may be waiting a while -- or not at all. The Senate opens the show at 9 a.m. There are no amendments posted as of this late hour. Download rubio_memo_1029.doc

Inshallah! A tax-cut mix-up for the ages (or the moment?)

It looks like we trumped ourselves in today's story about the Senate's property-tax plan and all of its political aspects when, somehow, we had the following how's-it-play-in-Pakistan angle added to the end of it:

''The Taliban signed the peace agreement with the government to ensure the safety of the lives and property of the people,'' the statement said. ``Now, we have decided to end the deal for the sake of the people.''

As that statement was being circulated, an undated video clip of Osama bin Laden surfaced on the Internet Sunday. Though it was not possible to know if the timing was meant to coincide with the upheaval in Pakistan, its message seemed to coincide with the weekend's attacks.

It went on and on like that. Luckily one of the ever-vigilant and sleepless Miami-Dade legislators called after midnight to kindly inform us of the error and it was stripped from our website.

His question: who in the Legislature is like Osama?

Please give us your thoughts and check the story and tell us if we missed anything else from Karachi, Lahore, Baluchistan, Whereverstan or RememberStan.

October 28, 2007

Senate plan: Portability shrunk, seniors out and 10% cap in

The Senate's new tax plan sets a first-ever cap limiting the assessed value increases to commercial properties to 10 percent, unlike the House's five percent. It also sunsets after 10 years, and doesn't hit schools.

Total tax cut: $12.4 billion over five years, $2.4 billion of which is from schools. Note: The big numbers are based on portability estimates and could vary widely as a result.

The Senate decided to put a cap of $500,000 on portability, meaning people can't transfer more than that amount of tax-shield to a new homestead. The House's plan has a $1 million cap.

Also, it increase homesteads by about $15,000 (or double them, if you will, on local-government tax bills). The House plan would peg exemptions to 40 percent of the median value of homes in a county.

Like the House plan, the Senate version gives businesses a $25,000 additional exemption on office equipment.

Gone: the so-called "presumption of correctness" making it easier for non-homestead property owners to challenge tax assessments, a break for so-called "working waterfronts" such as marinas, and a break for low-income seniors.

Another thing that will likely be gone: The Senate, after it passes its bill. It looks like members plan to leave quickly, leaving it up to House Speaker Marco Rubio's chamber to take it or leave it.

"All I can say is we're outta there at 6 p.m. Monday," Senate Democratic leader Steve Geller said.

Said Senate President Ken Pruitt in a written statement: "I firmly believe that we have a proposed constitutional amendment that provides tax relief and reform; that minimizes the negative impact on education funding; and that will be understandable and acceptable to voters this January."

House releases new numbers on impact of its prop tax plan

Saying that House staff is working closely with Senate staff, Rep. Dean Cannon, the House's lead negotiator on property taxes, today released a new set of numbers showing a lower estimated bottom line impact on local government revenues over four years -- from $11.1 billion to $9.84 billion -- coincidentally much closer to the bottom line impact of the plan that left the Senate. Here's his note to members:


Attached are updated estimates of the tax plan which we passed last Monday. In an effort to provide you with the most updated information, we have continued to examine our calculations and worked with the Senate staff to refine our estimated impacts for the various components. The initial estimate double-counted some of the impacts attributable to the 40% minimum SOH exemption and portability resulting in slightly overstated impacts to local governments.  The initial estimate also slightly underestimated the potential impacts of the 5% cap on non-homestead assessments.  As a result of correcting both of these line items, the total House plan impacts (4-year) dropped from $11.121 billion to $9.84 billion. The attached documents reflect these changes. 

Although we have already voted on the plan, I wanted for you to have the best and most accurate information in order to properly evaluate and compare it with what the Senate may propose.


October 27, 2007

From Hillary hating to Bush bashing

At the Republican Party of Florida convention last week, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton was a constant punch line for the GOP candidates and party leaders.

As Florida Democrats gather in Orlando today, it's their turn to pull out their favorite whipping boy: President George W. Bush, elected in 2000 by 537 Florida voters.

"The candidates are not here this morning,'' noted a Bush impersonator to more than 2,000 activists in the convention hall, referring to the boycott over the state's early presidential primary. "What can it cost you, a couple hundred votes? And when did a couple hundred votes ever make a difference?"

Crist to legislature: Accept a scaled down tax plan

Gov. Charlie Crist is ready to make some concessions. With a Tuesday deadline looming for getting a property tax amendment on the ballot, he said he's urging legislators to accept something rather than nothing. That could be portability and that's all. "That's a heck of a lot,'' Crist told the Miami Herald, even though he has pushed for a larger list of tax breaks to include in the plan.

"It would be great to be able to double the homestead exemption from 25 to 50 but, my cautionary word is, let's not try to pursue perfection and lose the potential for progress,'' he said Friday. "It's important to realize whatever we conclude on Monday, doesn't mean it's the end game. We need to try to move the ball down the field.'' Read more of Crist's comments here.

Smoke gets in the GOP's eyes

A cigar-store Indian and a pungent aroma greet customers at Miami's Sosa Cigars in Miami, right next to the famed Versailles restaurant.

Boxes of cigars labeled Partagás, Cohiba and Padrón rise from floor to ceiling. A table for dominoes nvites smokers with time to spare. Buy a humidor, bottle of wine or guayabera to complete the look of
old Havana.

"Take a picture," quipped U.S. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, one of three Miami Republicans who oppose legislation expanding a popular children's health-insurance program, partly because it relies on higher cigar taxes. ‘‘They're not going to be around much longer."

But put aside the Chicken-Little warnings, the appeals to ethnic pride and the romantic image of the family-run storefront. Consider that the program would extend health benefits to 10 million childen on the strapping back of a deadly industry.

Read the rest of Beth Reinhard's column here.                    Augustine10_2          

October 26, 2007

Let's get this party started

Spotted on the lapels of St. Lucie County activists Sue Clancy and Debbie Brothers as the annual Florida Democratic Party convention got underway in Orlando this evening:

"No Vote No Money."

"Size Does Matter."

"Screw Howard Dean." (Actually the button shows instead of tells, depicting a small metal fastener astride the name of the Democratic National Committee chairman.)

What's the defiance all about? The DNC has declared that Florida delegates will not be seated at the 2008 nominating convention because the state's early primary breaks party rules. Most of the candidates, out of loyalty to the four smaller states authorized to hold early votes, are boycotting Florida.